Dragon fruit is the most evocative Thai fruit. It’s sort of like a Dalmatian in a bright pink raincoat – utterly ridiculous, but you can’t stop staring. Certainly there are tastier fruits, but none more gorgeous. Some preliminary research told that dragon fruit grows on cacti, sort of a cactus tree.
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Growing your own dragon fruit
Full sized, a dragon fruit tree is Medusa-inspired and basically unlovable. In December 2007, I had the bright idea to grow my own dragon fruit. The plants don’t bear fruit for 7 years. “It’s ok,” I told Mother Nature. “I have time”.
How to grow dragon fruit from seed?
#1. In a hot, humid, sunny climate (like Thailand)…
Here’s some not-at-all surprising news: the dragon fruit seeds I planted on Koh Samui have grown about 1,000 times faster than those I tried to grow in “cold country with actual winter”.
#2. Growing dragon fruit in a cold climate…
I planted some seeds in a pot at home, too (about a million – you get a lot in a dragon fruit). My results, ten (!!) years later? It turns out I don’t live in a perpetually sunny, humid, tropical oasis. While most of the seeds germinated, I ruthlessly culled the weak and, today, have three or four 10-inch long “cactus sticks”. They seem happy enough with my total neglect, though they’ll never, ever fruit. In this environment, they’re just a curious-looking houseplant. Sound good? Here’s how to grow your very own …
How to grow your own dragon fruit?
Want to try growing your own dragon fruit? If I can do it, it’s definitely a novice gardening actitvity.
#1. Get a major head-start
To get a major head-start, begin with a dragon fruit plant. After ten years (growing from seed with minimal sunlight), I basically have an extended dragon fruit cutting – do yourself a favour and skip the early stuff.
- purple dragon fruit cutting
- white dragon fruit cutting – roughly equivalent to my ‘5 years later’ plant
- yellow dragon fruit
- fruiting size dragon fruit – ideal for the impatient
#2. Set it up for success
As a cactus, your dragon fruit wants really good drainage. It prefers mildly acidic soil, into which I chuck some earthworm castings (ph neutral) when I’m feeling generous. More than anything – it wants the sunshine its cactus-y heart deserves. If you can’t provide that at home, supplement with some fake sunshine to increase your success. I never provided this and, as such, we do not have a warm and loving relationship. It’s prickly =)
TIP! In a warm-ish climate, with decent sunshine (real or fake) and regular doses of worm castings or other nutrients, you should have good success with growing dragon fruit in a container – give it good drainage as well. My results (poor) involved none of the above. Do as I say, not as I did!
#3. Water sparingly!
I like to play God with my dragon fruit babies – days/weeks/months of neglect and total drought and then, one day, a tropical storm from a vengeful watering can. If you’ve set your dragon fruit up in a cactus pot with good drainage, it won’t suffer from an occasional watering – but don’t water too often.
Then what happens?
Depending on your environment, you might one day end up with a fruiting dragon fruit – or certainly a flowering one. With such runaway success, you’ll quickly outgrow the houseplant phase and will move into larger containers and a dragon fruit that requires trellises or structural support. Otherwise – you might find yourself staring at a 6″ cactus-runt in ten years’ time, slightly bemused at your personal science projects.
In the mean-time, here’s a taste of coming attractions:
Crazy cactus person in training?
Best of luck in growing dragon fruit; patience not included, but if you like bizarre side projects, this is a good one. Enjoy!
Photo credit to Shutterstock + Mike Behnken via Flickr Creative Commons